Seven years ago, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s (COC) sculling program director, Troy Howell, received a mission-oriented directive from the organization to look into acquiring and using electric boats for the operation. In November 2008, Dick Dreissigacker and Judy Geer purchased the Center that was established in 1976 in Craftsbury Common and reformed the company as a non-profit organization with a new mission. The mission was to support and promote participation in cross-country skiing, rowing, and running as lifelong sports, using and teaching sustainable practices while protecting and managing the surrounding environment.
COC fleet manager Erika Sloan stated, “We use the electric launches for two main purposes: coaching and safety. Coaches drive the launches around the lake to work with the athletes, including sculling campers, local community rowers, and resident high-performance athletes. For safety, the coaches use the launches to keep an eye on and assist any athletes who may need help during a session. For example, if a sculler flips their single, the coach can drive over to them in the electric launch and assist them getting back into the boat.”
According to electric motor boat manufacturer, Elco, there are 13 million boats registered in the U.S. today. If only 5% of them repowered with electric motors, there would be one billion pounds of CO2 emissions eliminated.
The coaches go out in two to four launches per class, and there are about 35 camps per season with a total of about 850 campers. The COC sculling program is offered in a full week program that each has about 35 participants and 4-day or weekend programs that each has 25 participants.
The launches are charged each night and used for two or three sessions in the morning (from about 7 AM – 1 PM). They’re then plugged in to be partially recharged for one to two afternoon sessions (4-7:00 PM), after which they are plugged in to recharge overnight. They have batteries and a charging station. The electricity is sourced by COC’s grid-tied solar array. COC does have one gas-powered motor if needed for an emergency.
Electric launches were acquired seven years ago as an affordable option for the boat motors. Originally, they acquired ten horsepower motors from a company named Torqeedo, which are made in Germany, but these motors were not easily serviced. Now COC uses motors produced by Elco, a company that has been in the electric motor business for 80 years. This motor is built within the housing of a regular gas outboard motor. It takes a few hours to charge the batteries for the 7-15 HP Elco motors.
The COC summer sculling program is sold out with pre-registered participants. There is usually a wait list, which has become a “wait and see” list this year as the program has been suspended until further notice due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The COC is awaiting governor guidance on opening the program for this summer.
The COC sculling program is an important factor to the northeastern Vermont economy as almost all of the 850 campers stay at COC where there are 114 beds ranging from shared dorms to private cabins. There are three full time coaches at COC and about fifty seasonal coaches that lead three to four camps each.
For more information about the Craftsbury Outdoor Center sculling program, contact www.craftsbury.com.
Roger Lohr of Lebanon, NH, who owns and edits XCSkiResorts.com, has published articles and promotional topics on snow sports, sustainability, and trails in regional and national media. He is also the Recreational Editor for Green Energy Times